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This condensed version of the Dickens story was shown on CBN one December in the mid-1980s. I taped it, and our family has enjoyed watching it each Christmas since then. The production is simple, but certain of the elements evoke unintended laughs. Only about half of the actors use British accents. Taylor Holmes' portrayal of Scrooge is very melodramatic, and we laugh at some of his delivered lines. The effect of Marley breaking through Scrooge's door is also very funny: a shot of the door is superimposed with Marley walking through a large sheet of paper and accompanied by a big "boom" sound effect. However, the program is very charming, despite the mediocre production values. I hope it is made available someday, even as a bargain-bin DVD.
Mainly because of Vincent Price's excellent and tongue-in-cheek
narration, reading the celebrated Dickens story, this works better than
it should, especially given the ridiculously over the top performance
of Taylor Holmes as Scrooge, acting in a way one associates more with
the worst excesses of silent cinema.
However, in twenty-five minutes this production does include a scene in Scrooge's office, Jacob Marley and all the three ghosts, as well as a glimpse at Scrooge's redemption and celebration of Christmas.
As an example of early television's attempts to film the classics, it is very good indeed. There are of course better adaptations of this tale, but this one is worth seeking out even if is just the once.
The version I watched is rather muddy picture-wise, but the sound is clear and understandable, and everyone has clear voices which serve Dickens' text well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is interesting to compare this version with the Frederic March/basil
Rathbone version. Granted, Vincent Price's version is less
star-studded, but it is interesting to see how different adaptations
occur. Vincent as narrator reads from the book, much as Frederic March
did. Vincent seems to be enjoying himself, though. It is great to hear
him say (Marley was dead." Mind you, this film was shot before Vincent
became a horror star.
There are many liberties taken with the script, but when you have limited time, cuts are necessary. Fezziwig is cut out, as are the scenes with Fan. The ghosts are interesting if uninspired compared to other versions.
All in all, it's hard to ruin Dickens, and while this version is very abridged, it moves.
This half-hour digest telling of Charles Dickens' Christmas CAROL from 1949 is one of the earliest American television programs to survive. Taylor Holmes (a character actor perhaps best known for as Henry Spoffard Sr. in Marilyn Monroe's GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES) is well cast as the sour Mr. Scrooge. Although he is a bit over the top in a few of his early scenes, he is very good otherwise and there is a unusual touch of poignancy in his performance that often is not in other actors as Scrooge, possibly due to Mr. Holmes' having lost two of his sons (including the well-known actor Phillip Holmes) within the previous five years, thus giving him perhaps an emotional link to Scrooge's inner sadness that some actors couldn't quite reach. This little drama is moves quickly of course given the time frame and the cast of mostly unknowns does very well (although the ghosts are fairly ridiculously costumed, particularly the ghost of Christmas present who resembles some actor in a king costume for a 1960's cereal commercial). It's an effective little piece of television and Christmas nostalgia. It won't be anyone's favorite rendition of the classic story but it's worth seeing and rather endearing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was not the earliest television version of "A Christmas Carol,"
but it seems to be one reasonably available for viewing. It is a
product of its time, given its limited production values. That was par
for the course.
And yes, it is a little odd that some performers have British accents, while others don't. But then, George C. Scott didn't exactly have one when he played Scrooge in 1984.
Taken on its own terms, though, it is fun to watch, knowing that it was filmed in 1949. Vincent Price does a fine job as the narrator, and seeing a nine-year-old Jill St. John as Missie Cratchit is fun. This was her second television appearance, and the second of her child actress performances she did from 1949 to 1952.
Both she and Mr. Price would go on to more notable performances, he in horror films, she in various ingénue roles, in the years ahead. While this production may not rank with the 1951 version with Alastair Sim or the George C. Scott version made 33 years after, it remains an interesting relic of the late 1940s, and an interesting artifact of the infancy of television.
This is probably the shortest version you will see. With a bare-bones
budget, they only managed 25 minutes. No street scenes of Victorian
Christmas, and no lavish parties.
The movie was narrated by Vincent Price. He has such a wonderful voice and added immensely.
You won't recognize Cratchit's younger daughter, her name was Jill Oppenheim. She would grow up to be a true piece of eye-candy and a Bond girl as Jill St. John.
One of the most interesting parts is Scrooge's laugh on Christmas morning. If you heard it, you would probably call for the men in the little white coats to take him away.
The Christmas Carol (1949)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Vincent Price hosts and narrates this made-for-TV version of the Charles Dickens' classic about Ebeneezer Scrooge (Taylor Holmes) who is visited by his former partner and warned that three spirits will visit him. I've seen so many versions of this story that you obvious begin to feel a bit of deja vu but I've always felt that the story itself is so strong that it's not too hard to bring one into it. This version here has several good things going for it but it's obviously done on a pretty low-budget and the wooden sets and some poor acting certainly doesn't help. I thought that all of the sets were rather cheap and fake looking but I think a lot of the television shows from this period suffered the same fate. Just take a look at the chains around Marley and you can see that there wasn't too much imagination going on. Another weak thing was the performance by George James who is so still as the Ghost of Christmas Present that you'd think they really dug him up out of some grave. With that said, the performance by Holmes was actually pretty good. He's certainly not one of the best Scrooge's that I've seen but I enjoyed his performance. I also thought Price did a good job reading from the book and just check out the way he keeps reminding us that Marley is dead. I'm not sure why they changed the "A" to a "The" in the title but fans of the story and Price will want to check this one out.
The problem with "The Christmas Carol" (1949) is that it's a VERY
familiar tale--with quite a few versions out there--including the
classic versions with Alistair Sim as well as Reginald Owen, a musical,
some wonderful made for TV versions and it's probably the most
ripped-off plot used in sitcoms! So, because of this, a SHORT version
with cheap sets is already at a huge disadvantage--even if it had
Vincent Price narrating. Most of the acting (except for the Ghost of
Christmas Present) is decent and it's okay for 1949 TV. But, shoving
this into such a short time slot and the poor ending at the Cratchit
ending didn't help. Overall, it's worth a look if you are curious but
my advice is to see the made for TV version starring George C. Scott--I
really think this is the best of the lot.
This show is like white bread--inoffensive and a bit bland.
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